Delta Burke, aka Suzanne Sugarbaker from “Designing Women,” has been married to “Major Dad” star Gerald McRaney for 33 years. He has been by her side through thick and thin.

    As a beauty queen in her 20s, Delta Burke constantly struggled to keep her weight in check and tried her best to stay skinny. The actress was very famous when she was blasted for her weight gain and it almost ruined her life. Burke revealed she endured body-shaming and that her marriage came under attack because of rumors. Still, she rose above the odds, relishing her life with her spouse who always stood by her side and publicly defended her.

    Television actress Delta Burke was a beauty queen earlier in her life and on screen. She found love on set and wed her co-star, Gerald McRaney. The pair have been married for 33 years.

    Burke rose to prominence in her twenties when she portrayed the role of former beauty queen Suzanne Sugarbaker on the television sitcom, “Designing Women.” The Florida native was nominated twice for an Emmy for the role.

    Actress Delta Burke as Suzanne Sugarbaker in the CBS television series "Designing Women" on January 1, 1987 | Source: Getty Images

    Her husband, McRaney, was cast on the show in 1987 as Sugarbaker’s former spouse, Dash Goff. They fell in love off-screen and walked down the aisle in an extravagant ceremony in 1989. Their “Designing Women” co-stars and 500 other friends attended the nuptials.

    In real life, Burke was also a beauty queen. She was Miss Florida when she attended Orlando’s Colonial High School. However, she has struggled with her weight her whole life and faced body shaming.

    People mocked her for gaining weight, which affected her and her acting career. In addition to her career taking a significant knock, she lost her friendship with her famous co-star, Dixie Carter. Amid all that, Burke lost the strength to live.

    The author tried to get her weight under control, but with the constant bullying and mocking, and with her show’s ratings plummeting, her stress levels were amplified.

    In order to confront her weight head-on, Burke asked the show’s creator, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason to devote an episode during Season 4 of “Designing Women,” featuring her weight gain. The episode was titled “They Shoot Fat Women, Don’t They,” and featured Burke being mocked by pals for her weight as she attended her high school reunion.

    Delta Burke as Suzanne Sugarbaker on "Designing Women" on January 1, 1990 in Los Angeles | Source: Getty Images

    One of them said, “I hear she’s the new poster child for ‘Save the Whales.’” While another commented, “I hear her former husbands left because they couldn’t get enough to eat.”

    While the episode poked fun at the actress, it earned her an Emmy nomination. However, that didn’t do much to save her from further mockery off-screen and her career struggled.

    As her confidence sank further, Burke’s friendship with her “Designing Women” co-star, Dixie Carter, suffered. Their friendship dates back to 1982 when they starred alongside each other on the short-lived comedy show, “Filthy Rich.”

    However, while Burke dealt with problems with the management of “Designing Women,” their friendship was caught in the middle, and they had a falling out.

    In June 2000, after years of silence, Carter discussed her fractured relationship with Burke. The actress, who was Burke’s matron-of-honor during her wedding to McRaney, opened up about their “close” bond and said:

    “The truth of the matter is I love Delta. I always have, and I always will. As to our friendship and when we see each other again, when that happens, I don’t think it should be a public thing.”

    During the interview, Carter sent her best wishes to her estranged friend and her husband, adding she was “happy” for all the good things happening in her life.

    Actors Delta Burke and Gerald McRaney at the Hollywood Women's Press Club 47th Annual Golden Apple Awards at Beverly Wilshire Hotel on December 13, 1987 in Beverly Hills | Source: Getty Images

    Upon hearing this, Burke broke down in tears. “She said that? Really? I just thought everything was completely undone,” the producer expressed.

    Burke acknowledged that she and Carter had an enviable friendship and that she was “good” to her. “And the saddest part of what happened was what happened between us,” she explained.

    The “Women of the House” alum’s entire public image changed because of her weight issues. Burke’s former co-star, Jean Smart, revealed: “She went from feeling like sort of the darling of the press to being their favorite target.”

    In addition to the press targeting her, disc jockeys also jumped on the bandwagon and regularly ridiculed Burke. They even made a song that goes, “Delta Dawn, how many pounds have you put on?”

    On the negative media attention she received, Burke said it all turned into a “crisis” because they also aired private things involving her and her spouse McRaney.

    She was not used to such, and on top of that, they targeted her career, which she described as “vicious.” Burke stated she put in a lot of work to build a “good” rep, only for them to tarnish it.

    Even on set, she could not escape the mistreatment and recalled how everyone would talk about her like she was not in their presence. Burke recounted:

    “I remember being on the sound stage with people standing around me trying to decide what they were going to have me wear. They would talk about me like I wasn’t even there. ‘What are we going to do about those hips?’”

    Delta Burke at the taping of Bob Hope's TV Special "Bob Hope's Yellow Ribbon Party" at Bob Hope's Palm Springs home on March 31, 1991 | Source: Getty Images

    Due to all the negativity surrounding her weight, Burke fell into depression and relied on medication and a therapist to deal with it. When she returned to work for the third season, things escalated as she started having panic attacks.

    The brunette was physically and mentally drained, so Carter took her to the doctor, where she got admitted. Recalling that period, Burke disclosed:

    “The nurse said I looked like a wounded animal. I didn’t really want to exist. I remember they weighed me, and I was 170 pounds, and I wanted to die.”

    By the fifth season of the show, reports surfaced that Burke had been suspended and that she was causing disruptions on set. There were also speculations she would be fired if she did not lose the weight. But co-executive producer, Bloodworth-Thomason, stated the reports were inaccurate adding, “It’s like when you gain weight, you have no right to live in America.”

    Even so, tensions ran high behind the scenes, and consequently, Burke was shown the door in 1991. Following her exit, she struggled but attempted to resurrect her Sugarbaker character in a comeback series, “Delta,” in 1992. ABC canned the show a year later, in 1993.

    In 1995, another show emerged based on Suzanne Sugarbaker and created by Thomason titled “Women of the House,” for CBS. But it was also canceled after less than three months on air.

    When Burke left “Designing Women” in 1991, she weighed 215 pounds. She believed the weight triggered her diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes.

    In addition to being bullied by the press and constant talk about her weight, Burke’s six-month-old marriage to McRaney became a topic of interest. The media insinuated that the “Major Dad” star was cheating on his wife because of her weight. The “Sordid Lives” star revealed:

    “They said he was feeding me. That he said I was too fat. That we’re having trouble. That he’s kicking me out.”

    Gerald McRaney and his wife Delta Burke during the 42nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on September 16, 1990 in Pasadena, California | Source: Getty Images

    Burke shared that when she suggested that Thomason integrate her weight into the show, she penned an “incredible script” which made her husband cry.

    Despite the rumors, Burke and McRaney continued to build their marriage which came close to ruin because of bad press. But her beloved husband, also known as “Mac,” had a lot of good things to say when it came to his sweetheart.

    How Burke’s Husband Defended Her & Supported Her amid Harsh Attacks on Their Marriage
    McRaney could care less about “how fat” his spouse got and has always been by her side, including driving to set to be with her when she was upset. Burke revealed she weighed 170 pounds on the couple’s wedding day, but her husband-to-be was not fazed:

    “The weight never mattered to him. He told me that, honest to God, he, didn’t care, which of course, I didn’t believe.”

    Delta Burke and Gerald McRaney at the taping of the TV special "Bob Hope's Yellow Ribbon Party" on March 31, 1991 in Palm Springs | Source: Getty Images

    McRaney boldly said, “There are examples of men out there who are just complete jerks,” content with “trophy” wives, but more often than not, things don’t turn out well for them. “But if what you want is a wife, then you love that person. Period,” he added.

    When McRaney met his dear wife, she weighed 150 pounds. Burke divulged she managed to maintain that weight for a year. Despite this, her spouse gushes about her, saying:

    “She’s a hell of a lot wiser and tougher.”

    Despite the troubles she had faced until that point, including her weight issues, Burke’s spouse loved her irrespective of all those things she went through.

    “He loved me when I got as big as a house. He loved me when I was a blonde. He didn’t tell me he hated it until I went back to brunette. He has loved me through my up times and my down times. He still thinks my body looks great, and I can certifiably tell you it does not,” she admitted.

    While Burke looks good in her husband’s eyes and is tough enough to stand up for herself, she knows she can always count on him to come to her rescue.

    When executive producer Harry Thomason gave the cast an earful in his office and threw things at them, she displayed her disapproval of the mistreatment and tried to leave the room but was physically hindered from going. Thomason’s “abuse” continued until he found out that Burke’s husband was heading to their production office.

    Even through the hard times, the couple stood strong. When Burke lost her job and they suffered financially in 1995, they sold their Pasadena home and moved to New Orleans, which proved beneficial to their union.

    It was a change for the better for Burke as she managed to rebuild her life.. She launched a clothing line for plus-size women and toured the country with her book, “Delta Style,” in 1997.

    Burke & Her Happier Life with Her Husband after Being Fired from ‘Designing Women’
    Now at age 66, Burke’s is “beautiful,” according to fans, as she enjoys life with her husband and stepchildren. In the mid-2000s, they lived with Burke’s mom and she credited McRaney for helping her overcome the trying times.

    Burke said her husband had been nothing but wonderful because gaining weight over the years did not bother him. However, he did pay careful attention to her by advising her on what to eat and giving her her insulin shots. McRaney told his wife that it made him feel like he was caring for her.

    Delta Birke and Gerald McRaney pictured in the press room during the 2017 Creative Arts Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 10, 2017 in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

    The Hollywood couple loves walking together to stay in shape, and Burke revealed they were both in good health and felt “good” about it, believing she would improve health-wise. The TV star said she would celebrate that time in her life.

    Moreover, fans have taken notice of how good Burke looks today. Even though she and McRaney lead a low-key life now, they were spotted in February 2023, and she was reportedly different.

    A fan complimented her appearance on social media, saying “She is gorgeous,” while another said, “She looks beautiful.” A third user stated that in addition to her good looks, she is “talented,” and that it was impressive that she developed her own clothing line revealing her great sense of fashion.

    Burke has stepped away from the limelight, rarely making public appearances and with no online presence, while her husband is still acting.

    Burke and McRaney tied the knot on May 28, 1989, and have been married for three decades. While she has no biological children, he has three from his two previous marriages; daughters Jessica and Kate and son Angus.

    McRaney’s first wife was Beverly Root, whom he married in 1966 but divorced in 1971. He later wed Pat Moran in 1981, but they split in 1989.

    McRaney and Burke publicly appeared in Studio City, California, in November 2014. She became scarce after falling on the set of her pilot, “Counter Culture,” in 2012 – leading to the show’s cancellation.

    Burke revealed she was happy despite the lack of job opportunities: “Everything is fine. I’m just not very exciting right now!”

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